Saturday, June 27, 2020

Disney Cruise Line's New Temporary Cruise Date Flexibility Policy

Earlier this week, my family got an email from Disney Cruise Line regarding our upcoming cruise in January.  Since the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Disney to cancel all of their cruises until at least September, they've become more flexible with the cruises that are still going to sail.  Before I spoil the surprise, have a look:

Disney is letting people change their cruise date up to fifteen days before it sails!  This applies to any cruise through March 31st, 2021, booked before August 31st of 2020.  The rescheduled cruise has to start before April 1st, 2021, though.  Even with that limitation, this is a very generous policy.  Ordinarily, someone can't change their cruise date if it's only fifteen days away, unless they don't want their money back.  But with this change, Disney is allowing people to modify their cruise just over two weeks before it's going to happen, without a penalty.  However, this email doesn't say anything about a flexible cancellation policy.  It just says "Should you cancel your new sail date, any cancellation fees applicable to the original sail date will be deferred and applied as a minimum cancellation fee to the future sailing."  So, I'm guessing the standard fees for canceling that late still apply.

I'm really glad Disney created this policy.  This flexibility is giving thousands of their guests peace of mind about their cruises.  Also, this policy is a good sign for cruises to resume.  Since they made it, I think Disney is planning on resuming cruises by then.  If everybody keeps doing their part to minimize the spread of the virus, the world will hopefully be back to a somewhat normal state with cruises sailing by January, if not sooner.  I'm interested to see the health changes that'll surely be implemented on the Disney ships when they resume sailing, and I'll blog about what I discover.  What kind of changes do you think will be put into effect?  Leave a comment if you'd like to share.

Monday, June 22, 2020

What Will Disney's New Island Be Like?

Disney's second Bahamian destination, Lighthouse Point, is currently scheduled to open in 2022 or 2023.  Disney hasn't told us a lot about Lighthouse Point, but its website reveals many interesting facts about it.  I'm really excited about this island, but 2022 or 2023 is still a while from now.  At least Disney made the website to hold us over until then.

The site's homepage shows an aerial video of what Lighthouse Point presently looks like.  It's beautiful, and Disney knows that too.  Lower in the page, it says that their development on the island will preserve its natural beauty.  Also, Lighthouse Point will compliment Castaway Cay, not replace it.  However, unlike Castaway Cay, the island isn't entirely owned by Disney.  Lighthouse Point is at the southern end of Eleuthera, a huge island in the Bahamas.  It has houses, towns, and roads.  Coincidentally, right near Lighthouse Point is Princess Cays, a cruise destination owned by Carnival.  So, yeah, Lighthouse Point is not a private island.  Disney ships will be the only cruise ships to stop at Lighthouse Point, so it is a private port.  An advantage of it not being a private island is that guests will be able to book excursions to other locations on Eleuthera, not just Disney's area.

At the bottom of the home page, there's an artist's rendering of what Lighthouse Point is planned to look like:
This definitely isn't Castaway Cay.  The buildings are unlike anything I've ever seen before.  Their curved rooves look modern and their natural colors look nice with the tropical greenery.  The buildings look to be open-air, like many of the buildings on Castaway Cay.  This way, they don't need air conditioning!  Some of the buildings will likely be cabanas, available to rent for an extra fee.  Some of these buildings will be restaurants, like Cookie's and Cookie's Too on Castaway Cay.  According to this image, Lighthouse Point will have a water fountain play area, similar to Spring-A-Leak on Castaway Cay.  This rendering doesn't show a water slide in the ocean like Castaway Cay's Pelican's Plunge, but one may be added to the real thing.  In the background, there is a DCL ship, but I can't tell if it's docked at a pier or not.  Disney only tenders when it's absolutely necessary, so a pier will probably be built.  Also, I don't see roads, will there be a tram running around the property?  Also, what's that cable on the top right side of the picture?  Is it a power line or a zipline?  I hope it's the latter.  Will there be a designated area for Edge kids (the one age group that doesn't have their own location on Castaway Cay)?   Will Lighthouse Point have a 5K race?  Will there be a snorkeling section like on Castaway Cay?  What about bike trails?  I have so many questions!

Something that stuck out to me while viewing this image was the large amount of beach umbrellas, chairs, and space.  When the Dream or Fantasy is docked at Castaway Cay, it's often difficult to find open chairs on the beach, since it was designed with the smaller Magic and Wonder in mind.  From this image, Lighthouse Point appears to have a larger amount of beach space with more chairs and umbrellas.  It's being designed to suit the needs of the Wish, which will mean it'll have more than enough beach chairs.  

Besides the home page, Lighthouse Point's website has a frequently asked questions section.  An FAQ section is a good place to get some information, as long as that information is an answer to a question people ask frequently.  The first question is "What is Disney creating at Lighthouse Point?"  Disney is creating a destination where their guests can enjoy the island's beaches and nature.  Its design will be inspired by the site's natural appearance and the culture of the Bahamas.  In addition to DCL guests, Lighthouse Point will be open to Bahamian residents and citizens.  Bahamian residents and citizens!  Wow!  This is totally different than Castaway Cay, and it raises some important questions.  Will they have complete access to the property?  Or will there be sections of the property reserved for DCL guests?  Will Bahamian residents have to pay an admission fee?  This would solve the problem of restricting parts of the property to DCL guests.  If there is a fee, how much will it be?  Alternatively, will Lighthouse Point be completely closed to Bahamian residents when a ship is there?  Will having people besides DCL guests at Lighthouse Point take away from the "it's just like you're on the ship but you're on an island" feeling that Castaway Cay has?  Now I'm wishing this website had an infrequently asked questions section.  

On to the next noteworthy frequently asked question.  "How will Disney Cruise Line protect the natural environment of Eleuthera?"  Just like Castaway Cay, Disney is going to leave most of the site undeveloped.  They're planning to only develop around 20% of the property.  Disney is also going to donate parts of the site to the Bahamian government and people.  Disney is going to build a (probably really long) pier for ships to dock at, to avoid the need to dredge a canal.  If it's long, a tram will likely run.  At Castaway Cay, a canal was dredged, but they're taking a different, more environmentally-friendly approach here.  Any corals that may be affected by the pier will be relocated to help struggling coral reefs in the area.  Also, many structures and walkways will be elevated to reduce the environmental impact.  Hang on, looking back at the image, the walkways look elevated!  Good planning, DCL.

They're elevated!

Next up is "How will the development in Eleuthera be different from Disney Castaway Cay?"  Lighthouse Point's design will be influenced by its natural features and Bahamian culture.  Like we saw in the picture from the home page, it's not going to have the shipwreck theme of Castaway Cay, as seen in this picture:
Rather, it'll look like the artist's rendering we examined earlier.  It'll definitely have a Wish-sized shipload of Disney touches and a few (hundred) Hidden Mickeys.  I love Castaway Cay's design, but if Lighthouse Point were to just copy its style, it wouldn't be nearly as memorable as it would if it had its own design.

Following that question is "How will Disney Cruise Line's investment in Eleuthera benefit the people of the Bahamas?"  Lighthouse Point will create hundreds of jobs and allow Bahamian vendors to sell their goods in the property.  As a result of this, not all of the items sold at Lighthouse Point will be Disney themed, which will add some variety to what's available.  Bahamian tour operators will also be able to provide Port Adventures and other excursions for DCL guests.  Also, Bahamian residents and citizens will have complete access to Disney's Lighthouse Point property.  Okay, they confirmed it, Bahamians will be able to access the entire property!  There won't be any exclusive DCL guest areas, which will make life easier for both Disney guests and Bahamians.  This answer doesn't say anything about an entrance fee, but since Disney is giving citizens and residents full access, there will likely be one.

That's it for the frequently asked questions that are relevant to how the destination will look and function.  In addition to the questions I covered, there are some about employment and vendors.  If you're interested, be sure to check them out here.

Hopefully my analysis of the Lighthouse Point website gave you a better understanding of what to expect from Disney's new island.  I learned a lot, but I still have a few questions, like, will non-Disney guests have to pay an entrance fee?  The website has an email listed for people with questions, so maybe I'll send them an email and get some answers.  If I do, I'll share what I learn here on my blog.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Update: All Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy Cruises Are Canceled Until September 15th

Earlier today, June 19th, on their website, Disney announced that all cruises on the Dream and Fantasy are canceled until September 15th.  These cancellations are complying with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announcement that was also made today.  This announcement states that all cruise lines that are a member of CLIA, including Disney Cruise Line, will suspend cruises from ports in the United States until September 15th.

This suspension does not affect the Magic or Wonder, since neither of them would be going on cruises from US ports.  As of now, cruises on the Magic are canceled until October 2nd, and cruises on the Wonder are canceled until September 14th.

With the inclusion of today's announcement, all four Disney ships will be missing over six months of cruises in 2020.  It's really unfortunate that thousands of people's vacations are canceled, but DCL and other cruise lines are doing the right thing.  It's better to be safe than sorry, especially when dealing with a virus that can be deadly.  Initially, I would've laughed if you had told me cruises would be canceled until September, but here we are, and I'm not laughing.  Still, I can't believe we won't see a cruise until then.  It's going to be a slow summer for DCL news.

As with the previous suspensions, these will be extended past September 15th if necessary.  I don't think they'll be lengthened, but it's always possible.  Be sure to check the Disney Cruise Line website for more information and the latest updates.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Wish List: A Larger Variety of Bahamian Cruises

This edition of Wish List isn't completely related to the Wish, it's just something I wish Disney would do so it definitely counts.

Bahamian cruises are some of the most common Disney cruises.  They're mainly on the Dream now, but the three other ships have all been on some in their lifetimes.  Even the Fantasy has done a few.  However, the Bahamian cruises that Disney offer are all very similar, with many of them including stops at Castaway Cay and Nassau.  Since they're smaller, the Magic and Wonder can dock at Key West, Florida, which adds a little variety to what's available.  Even with this, Bahamian cruises could be more varied.  When the Wish enters service, Disney should spice up their Bahamian cruises with other ports of call, including their future private port of call, Lighthouse Point.

Let's take a look at Disney's existing available Bahamian cruises.  On the website, Disney has Bahamian cruises departing from Port Canaveral, Miami, Galveston, and New Orleans.  Cruises in the Bahamas have a surprising variety of lengths, ranging from three to seven nights.  All of Disney's cruises in the Bahamas include a day at Castaway Cay, and I hope this continues with the Wish.  Also, Disney currently only visits three ports of call on Bahamian cruises:  Nassau, Key West, and Castaway Cay.  Many people that have been on multiple Disney cruises have already been to Nassau and seen and done what it has to offer.  My family and I have, and we treat it as a day at sea with less people on the ship.  It would be nice if Disney offered Bahamian cruises on the Dream to Castaway Cay and another port that isn't Nassau.  But, where could they go in the Bahamas?

So now, let's see where DCL's competitors are going in the Bahamas.  Royal Caribbean has Bahamian cruises that go to ports like Bimini, Freeport, their private island Cococay, as well as Nassau and Key West.  Carnival has cruises going to Freeport, their private islands, and Key West and Nassau.  If Disney switched Nassau with one of these islands (well, not any of the private islands, of course), the ports on their Bahamian cruises would be much more enticing to repeat cruisers than they are now.  Disney would still go to Nassau, just not as frequently.

Wait, hang on, we can't forget about Disney's future private port!  When the new ships are launched, Disney will have another private port, Castaway Cay 2.  Yup, they make sequels to islands now (not really).  Their new private island isn't actually private!  Disney is purchasing the southern point of the island of Eleuthera, known as Lighthouse Point.  Eleuthera is a massive island, with roads and residents.  Disney's new property isn't anywhere near completion yet, but it does have its own website!  Lighthouse Point and Castaway Cay will compliment each other, so maybe Disney will have a three night cruise that just goes to both of the Disney destinations.  That would be a great and probably super expensive cruise!

With the eventual addition of Lighthouse Point and the possible addition of a Bahamian port that's new to DCL, Disney could really spice up their Bahamian cruises on the Magic, Wonder, Dream, and maybe the Wish!  Where would you like to go on a Bahamian Disney cruise?  Leave a comment below if you'd like.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Update: All Disney Magic Cruises are Canceled Until October 2nd

What a surprising and unexpected announcement!  I sure didn't see this coming.  Earlier today, June 8th, on their website, Disney announced that all cruises on the Magic are canceled until October 2nd.  This means that the Magic won't be doing any European cruises in 2020, which we knew already, since they took all of the 2020 European cruises down from their website a few weeks ago.  All of the people affected by this suspension will have the choice of receiving a full refund or full cruise credit to be used in the next 15 months, the same all of the previous suspensions.  

Similar to the Wonder, the Magic will be missing over half a year of cruises this year.  I really hope that the Dream and Fantasy resume cruises earlier than the Magic and Wonder.  As of now, cruises on the newer two ships will resume at the end of July, but this is subject to change.

Of course, these Magic cruise cancellations will be extended past October 2nd if necessary.  I doubt this will happen, but anything is possible.  Be sure to check the Disney Cruise Line website for more information and the latest updates.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Why Isn't the Dream or Fantasy Docked at Disney's Cruise Terminal?

The other day, I watched the Fantasy as it sailed in to Port Canaveral on the webcam.  Surprisingly, it didn't dock at the Disney Cruise Line terminal.  Instead, it moored at an adjacent terminal, which is typically where Carnival ships dock.  When I noticed this, I just assumed that the Dream would be coming in to dock at Disney's terminal later that day and didn't think anything too unusual was happening.

Well, when the Dream came in later, can you guess where it went?  If you guessed the terminal on the other side of Disney's terminal, then you're correct!  That terminal is mainly used by Norwegian ships, but when Disney's new ships are completed, it will be shared between the two lines.
The reason why this happened is likely because Disney has started work on renovating their cruise terminal.  According to this article from December 2019, Disney announced that they would start work renovating their terminal in June 2020.  Well, it's June now, and work has probably started.  The terminal was originally scheduled to be closed from June until almost November, and as a result of COVID-19, it's already closed.  How convenient!  If cruises resume by October (I sure hope they do), then Disney will use the Norwegian cruise terminal as a substitute.

The purpose of this renovation is to prepare the terminal for the Wish and its sister ships, which will be a bit larger than the Dream and Fantasy.  A few notable changes include the replacement of the seats in the main section of the building and the extension of the shade in the drop-off area.  The drop-off area is where guests get out of buses and taxis and walk into the terminal.  It can get pretty crowded with people getting on their cruise and people leaving from their cruise, so I'm glad it will be expanded.

At the time of posting, the Dream and Fantasy were still in Port Canaveral together.  They might still be there when you're reading this, so visit the Port Canaveral Webcam to see for yourself!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Update: All Disney Wonder Cruises Are Canceled Until September 14th

I knew this would happen!  Earlier today, June 2nd, on their website, Disney officially announced that all cruises on the Wonder are canceled until September 14th.  This announcement comes after Disney removed all the 2020 Alaskan cruises from their website a few weeks ago.  All of the people affected by this suspension will have the choice of receiving a full refund or full cruise credit to be used in the next 15 months.

This announcement means that the Wonder will be missing half a year of cruises in 2020, which is crazy to think about.  If any crew members will be on the ship from now until September, they'll have absolutely nothing to do!  The ship can only get so clean.

For some reason, Disney didn't say anything about the Magic in this announcement, even though all of the European cruises on the Magic were taken off the website.  There might be another announcement soon, so keep an eye out for it.

I'm sure you know this by now, these cruise cancellations will be extended past September 14th if necessary.  Be sure to check the Disney Cruise Line website for more information and the latest updates.